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Shaman, psychoanalyst or obstetrician: a critical reading of Claude Levi-Strauss' essay "The efficiency of symbols"
Umeå University.
2010 (English)In: Folklore, ISSN 1406-0957, E-ISSN 1406-0949, no 45, 7-26 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article intends to clarify the obstetric, medical-psychological and ethnological credibility of a well-known essay in structural anthropology. Claude Levi-Strauss claims that it is possible to heal a person with an acute, life-threatening, physical, medical condition, in this case a complicated delivery, with purely psychological or magical methods. His reasoning is based on an incomplete source as well as on a grave anatomical misunderstanding. An obstetric analysis of the complete source furthermore shows that the medicine man or shaman uses a combination of a manual intervention, drug treatment and psychological influence. Levi-Strauss' claim must therefore be refuted. The empirical basis is also insufficient for Levi-Strauss' far-reaching conclusions on the topography of the human mind, the function of the subconscious and the comparison between psychoanalysis and shamanism The medicine man is described by Levi-Strauss as a "noble savage". However, Levi-Strauss also points out the importance of the psychological support of the patient in a valuable way.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum, Estonian Literary Museum , 2010. no 45, 7-26 p.
Keyword [en]
birth, cosmology, disease, medical anthropology, obstetrics, shamanism, structuralism, traditional medicine
National Category
Other Humanities Social Anthropology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-109023DOI: 10.7592/FEJF2010.45.mjonesISI: 000281661400001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-109023DiVA: diva2:857938
Available from: 2015-09-30 Created: 2015-09-17 Last updated: 2017-12-01Bibliographically approved

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  • Other style
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  • de-DE
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  • en-US
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  • nn-NB
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  • Other locale
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  • text
  • asciidoc
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